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Laying a lawn – turf

I had a query recently from a work colleague about lawns, whether to grow it from seed or to lay turf. This got me thinking about when I laid our lawn.

This was our front “garden” when we bought the house

When we bought the house, the previous owners had been elderly and were not able to keep the gardens as well as they had. To make life a bit easier on them, they had the entire front of the house and some of the back garden surfaced over with slabs, monoblock or stones (in Scotland we call them chuckies). It meant that we had pretty much no front garden when we moved in, although we could park 5 cars out front.

Plans for our front garden

We kept things this way over the first couple of months of cold weather but come spring we got to work creating our front garden (I now know that the best time to lay a new lawn is actually autumn, but hey ho it’s us). We created two beds, a rockery and a shrubbery and then we got started on the lawn.

Our first job was to draw out our plan of how we wanted the garden to look and finalised roughly where things would be. We then went crazy out front with some chalk and transferred those ideas onto the actual paving out front to give us a better idea of scale and positioning in situ. This was actually brilliant fun, felt like we were kids again.

Next though came the big job which let me tell you was not as much like fun at all. Next we had to lift all of the monoblock to make the spaces we needed for our beds and lawn ( and left some to make decorative borders – although the postman walks on this and treats it like a path grrrr!).

On a very big plus point though, all that monoblock got sold on gumtree and gave us some pennies to spend on niceties to make our home even more lovely, so we bought these two little cuties (although they are huge monsters now).

Parker and Penny as kittens
Penny and Parker, our “owners”.

So we had created our space, what now looked like a huge cavernous space that was actually making me question if we’d done the right thing, and it was time to prepare it for the turf we’d ordered. Preparing the soil is actually one of the most important jobs of laying a lawn, whether you use turf or seed, this part is equally important. So spades, forks, pick axe etc all out and the hard graft began. All of that space had to be dug over and broken up. We also had to add a shed load of fertiliser and compost to the mix to ensure that there would be nutrients for any lawn growing there, so more digging. I am not embarrassed to admit that after hours of digging things just got to me. We had about half an hour of digging left and I just fell apart, I just physically couldn’t do any more. It’s blooming hard going but it is essential. You want to make sure that the soil under your grass is exactly what the plant needs to set its roots into and start taking up nutrients and water.

You also want your finished lawn to be as flat as possible so digging over lets you break up any of those weird uneven bits that form over time and of course gives you a chance to deal with any weeds.

So all that done, we were finally able to start contemplating an actual lawn 😀

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos to show you of the lawn being laid, I did this one afternoon while Kate was at work so there was no one to take photos but I can talk you through the basics of what I did.

I started at the bottom corner and gradually laid the rolls of turf away from myself, covering the space from left to right and then going forward. I had read up a little beforehand so I knew that it is best to squish the pieces of turf as close together as you possibly can. If not then you risk the turf shrinking if it gets too dry and it then pulls away leaving gaps. Once I got into a rhythm, I found that if I pinched the two pieces of turf up a bit like pinching pie pastry so that they felt like they might over lap and then just squishing them flat seemed to work. Things fell into place really nicely (that’s actually a really hard thing to explain, sorry). I also found it useful to keep a wee bucket of soil near me so that I could fill any little gaps and hollows as I worked. I had also read that you shouldn’t walk on the turf directly as it would leave indents so it’s best to use wooden boards to disperse your weight, this actually worked really well and helped keep things flat.

When you are laying the turf, try to lay things in a staggered pattern, a bit like bricks in a wall. This helps prevent visible joins and things which will draw your eye in the finished lawn.

That’s kind of it, it’s not overly complicated to do, just time-consuming. Another little tip though, when you have it all laid, spread a mixture of sand and soil or compost lightly over the turf and work it into the joints, using a rake or brush. This top-dressing fills any small gaps and also helps things knit together. And the last thing to do is give the new lawn a REALLY good drink of water. This is really important. Just like when you repot any plant, you want to give it a good drink to help it establish into its new home, although make sure not to drown it.

Afterwards, leave the lawn undisturbed for a week or so. Don’t walk on it, let the kids play football on it etc. The first week is critical for root development just keep it moist and look at how pretty it is. Oh and those first couple of times you mow it, leave the blade on a high setting, the roots won’t be properly bedded for a while and you don’t want to tear up your gorgeous new lawn.

newly laid turf lawn

So there you go, one very freshly laid new lawn.

And how it’s all bedded in a few years later

Front garden, lawn and rhododendron

We were luck and had some turf left over, so I laid a new lawn at the very back of our back garden too, we call this little seated area our beer garden as it gets the best sun and we drink beer in the sunshine there.

old back garden
This was our back garden when we bought the house

I laid the new “lawn” between the two sheds. It’s now the nice seated area between the shed and the greenhouse.

Other posts about laying our lawn

Planning your lawn

Getting rid of those bricks and getting the ground ready

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